MTF improves after-tax profit to $8.3m

Motor Trade Finance office in Andersons Bay Rd. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Motor Trade Finance office in Andersons Bay Rd. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
MTF Finance has reported an improved underlying after-tax profit of $8.3 million for its year to September, but the year was not all plain-sailing for the motoring financier.

MTF's chief executive Glen Todd said the year ahead also held challenges, with potential for regulatory change, wavering consumer sentiment and wholesale and borrowing rates going up.

"The year ahead will be a year of consolidation for us, with so many uncertainties,'' Mr Todd said in an interview.

Founded in Dunedin in 1970, MTF has 315 shareholders, of which 180 are active car dealerships, and 46 MTF franchises, which sell only financial services.

Turnover last year was about $600million, selling financing to 35,000-40,000 people, on loans of an average of 36 months; 90% for vehicles and 10% for light industrial equipment.

Mr Todd said while sales for the past year had increased 5.5%, the financial year was a tale of two halves.

"After a record-breaking 2017, the first half of the year continued strongly,'' he said.

However, demand for the non-recourse product (where the car dealer took on the financial obligation for repayment) faltered in April after more onerous underwriting criteria was introduced in response to disappointing arrears performance, or bad debts accrued.

While the industry average for bad debt was 1.7% of businesses' portfolios, Mr Todd was pleased the 31-day arrears column for MTF was at 0.68%, one of the sector's lowest.

Of rising concern for MTF is its shareholders base, as competition either forced dealers out of the market, or they retired without selling the business.

He said while having started decades ago with 700 shareholders, that was down to 315, so MTF was engaging with as many new prospective businesses as possible in order to regain lost market share.

MTF was still partnering with its largest shareholder Turners, which was now using its own finance company. But the pair were "still working closely together'', Mr Todd said.

Other initiatives for the year ahead include a trial with Trade Me offering financing for Canterbury vehicles, which had the potential to be offered nationally, he said.

He said proposed amendments to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Amendment Act 2014, targeting high-interest pay-day lenders in particular, may not have much impact on the car finance sector.

However, they could have ramifications in raising finance in the future.

"It's really just another uncertainty out there for us,'' Mr Todd said.

Consumer sentiment was another unknown, with confidence surveys soft at present, partly because of government proposals to change numerous regulations, Mr Todd said.

That had been reflected in sales volumes being down 10% over the past three months and 20% for November, when the sector is usually heading into its busiest month, December.

The MTF Finance franchise network remained the company's strongest performer, with sales up 10% during the year.

"A customer-focused approach, coupled with a business model targeting new opportunities for growth, will be employed to help service this demand in the next financial year,'' he said.

Expenses increased 15% on a year ago, in line with planned levels, reflecting MTF's investment in a new brand, brand awareness and resources.

Operating expenses as a percentage of assets - excluding bad debt - was unchanged at 2.8%.

Total assets increased 11.6% to $748million, on the back of good sales.

Net interest income, as a percentage of average finance receivables, was unchanged at 9.3%, and was consistent with expectations.

"That reflects the competitive pressures of the current lending market,'' Mr Todd said.

MTF approved a final 9.2c dividend, the full dividend being 15.32c, compared with 13.37c last year, the payout rising from $3.1million to $3.5million.

Total amounts paid to shareholder vehicle dealerships, including commission, fees and payment waiver, reduced slightly by 2.4% to $68.3million, as less upfront income has been paid due to significantly lower non-recourse sales.

The commission component paid to the shareholder dealerships increased 6% to $39.9million. Underlying profit after tax increased 14.2% to $8.3million, against the previous year's $7.3million.


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